Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Please Say Some Prayers For Emmanual:

I am praying in the shrinking shadows of the mid-morning sun for Emmanual. Please join me. Emmanual is the fragile, 10-pound, 14-month old for whom we are seeking a visa today. It is crunch time as Chris and Hal, his American custodians, are flying to Ohio on Saturday, 12/17, and he needs to be with them.

Chris is going to the consulate armed with letters from the hospital, the host family, the host family’s accountant, John, and Haitian Hearts, which will be chipping in $10,000 for Emmanual’s surgery. The consulate wants assurances that no public monies will go for Emmanual’s medical care or living expenses while he is in the States. The letters provide this documentation. Hopefully, they will be enough, as Emmanual doesn’t have much time.

Our experiences with the consulate haven’t been pleasant. Many of the officials seem to view themselves as sworn gate keepers, whose solemn duty it is to keep Haitians, no matter how small or sick, out of the U.S. Or at least to make it difficult for them to gain entry.

Haiti is the low country on the State Department totem pole, where new employees are sent for training. This ensures a revolving door of staff, and consistency in rules seems to be non-existent. For example, for one baby who has been accepted for surgery in New York City, the consulate has demanded an original letter from a hospital, even though for other cases they are processing, they have accepted faxes and e-mails. Raphaella’s mother was arbitrarily denied a visa based on the official’s unsubstantiated belief that she wouldn’t return to Haiti. In the past, and perhaps currently, the consulate wouldn’t even distribute its own visa applications, forcing applicants and their sponsors to go to Soge Bank to obtain the necessary form.

The attitude of many of the staff is fake politeness that doesn’t mask their hostility to these sick, poor Haitian children and their advocates. Rose, a U.S. citizen and long-time Haitian resident is so incensed by the behavior of consulate officials that she has written the inspector general for the State Department. I am including her letters as a separate post.

While no Third World countries make the list of 27 nations whose citizens don’t need a visa to enter the U.S., we believe American policy toward Haitians is especially discriminatory. The treatment of Haitians by the consulate is just another example.

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